Pharmacists key in ACT healthcare submission

The ACT government is well positioned to more fully utilise the existing unique skill set of the 625 registered pharmacists in the territory, according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, which has recommended four budget measures aimed at improving the region’s healthcare system.

In its 2020-21 pre-budget submission, the PSA has advised the ACT could implement “a number of no or low-cost initiatives that would significantly improve health outcomes … while reducing pressure on the region’s ‘at-capacity’ emergency departments”.

The submission states: “By considering and adopting these four recommendations together, pharmacists and the ACT government have the potential to improve health outcomes for Canberrans and reduce the burden placed upon our other health professionals who contribute towards making the ACT one of the better regions in which to live in Australia.

The PSA recommendations are:

  • Enhance community access to after-hours healthcare through the pilot of a formal community pharmacy triage and referral service.
  • Provide funding for a part-time pharmacist within the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service to improve the health outcomes of the ACT’s indigenous population.
  • Request that the ACT becomes a signatory to the federal government’s public hospital pharmaceutical reforms.
  • Remove barriers limiting the ACT community from accessing vaccination services by aligning regulation of funding and of all authorised immunisers, including pharmacists.

Focusing on the call for vaccinations to be more widely accessible through pharmacy, PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said: “There are 625 registered pharmacists in the ACT, working in community pharmacy, hospital, general practice, aged care, territory and federal government and within other private sector organisations. Across the territory there are 84 registered pharmacies, which not only provide healthcare to our community, but contribute to the local economy and employment.”

Mr Freeman said vaccination continues to be a vital health intervention in Australia, although the ACT has just experienced one of its worst flu seasons on record and had a number of cases of measles.

“Pharmacists have been vaccinating Canberrans against influenza and pertussis since 2015 and pharmacist-administered vaccination has been shown to be safe, convenient and accessible,” he said. “However, funding and availability of pharmacist-administered vaccination in the ACT has not kept pace with other jurisdictions.

“While the training pharmacists complete to administer vaccines is similar to that of other health professionals, such as nurse practitioners, pharmacists are unable to provide eligible Canberrans with a similar level of access to vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program.

“This will improve access and equity for consumers and encourage public uptake of these vaccines by reducing financial barriers to vaccination.”

PSA’s budget recommendations also call for improved access to healthcare in other ways.

Through its community access enhancement recommendation, PSA is seeking the ACT government’s commitment to provide funding of $2 million to support a two-year pilot of formal triage and referral services in six geographically dispersed after-hours pharmacies.

This, it says, could reduce pressure on the hospital system by implementing and expanding pharmacists’ ability to provide care after hours for Canberrans with minor ailments and conditions.

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